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Sunday, August 31, 2014

On Teeth and Colds and Work

Jean Sexton muses:

In a small, closely knit company so many things affect the workflow. All it takes is a nudge and the schedule goes off-track, never to recover. All that can be done is to issue a new schedule.

For ADB, colds are our bane. So often we put on a huge push to get a product done, working 12-hour days with no day off. This type of schedule wears down the immune system, making us ripe to catch whatever is out there. Colds are easily transmitted from person to person before any real symptoms occur. They make focusing on anything complicated difficult. When Steve Cole gets a cold, all of his products are delayed by a week. What is worse is that we don't catch the cold simultaneously. This time, Steve got it. He gave it to Leanna. Leanna and/or Steve passed it on to me. Steve didn't do a lot of work needing my proofreading while he was sick. Now he is feeling better and his work needs checking; my brain is not sure if "P" comes before "M" at this point (unless I sing the alphabet song). The net result is the product is delayed two weeks, not one.

Another nudge to the schedule is when something outside the company goes wrong. When the prototype machine breaks, then there are no prototypes. No prototypes means no master molds. No master molds means no master minis to be approved. No approved master minis means no production of minis. No production of minis means no sales of those new minis. Say goodbye to the fall minis release schedule. The minis will come out, just not when we planned.

Smaller nudges happen, too. Wolf Dog Sexton was scheduled to have his baby teeth pulled by his veterinarian. (This happens when the baby teeth don't come out on their own.) Everyone in the office cares about The Wolf, so we remained on tenterhooks waiting to hear the results. I lost part of a day getting him from surgery (only partly alleviated by coming in early after dropping him off). Luckily it was a "cold day" when I couldn't focus as well.  The only saving grace is that it inspired this blog post.(Yes, Wolf is fine now and is his usual self, just minus a baby tooth and an adult tooth that came in wrong and would give him trouble.)

In a larger business, most of the time Person A can do enough of the essential part of Person B's job so that things don't get dreadfully behind. In a small business where part of what must be done is creative work, that doesn't happen as well. No one knows what is in Steve's mind to create. No one here seems able to handle the social media that I do daily. So some things just get "behinder."

So please forgive us if the fall schedule drops a bit behind our predictions. The cold plague took its toll on us.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Jonathan Thompson for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Jean Sexton for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Andy Vancil for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the play-by-email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the online game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a retired real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, Thomas Mathews, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers and volunteers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including John Berg, Howard Bampton, and Lucky Coleman (Galactic Conquest campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by email or BBS or Forum or our page on Facebook, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Friday, August 29, 2014

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 8

71. Tell the Organians it is designed to attack someone. It doesn't really matter who you tell them is the target

72. Put it in the defense budget and let Congress vote on it.

73. [Skipped as it was tres political.]

74. Tell Congress it is an "assault weapon."

75. Tell the Klingons it is scheduled to be converted into a Galactic Peace Monument and they'll kill it themselves.

76. Add a high-resolution camera and send it to Mars.

77. Go mano-a-mano with a Juggernaut.

78. Put it in orbit around Jupiter with an obelisk.

79. Upgrade the computer to Windows 3.1; it will crash.

80. Name Roseanne Karr as morale officer.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Steve Cole's further thoughts on the zombie apocalypse. Given the recent outbreak of super-Ebola, it's clear that the viral revenge of Gaia is only a matter of time.

1. How you survive the first phase depends on how fast the apocalypse happens and how many people survive. If it's fairly slow (say, a month) then when it reaches the worst stage you're screwed. The grocery stores are all empty and the food production and shipment system shut down long before now. If it's very fast, then the stores (gun stores, food stores, any stores) are full of stuff. If the number of living people is small, you can just go to a Wal-Mart or Sam's Club, lock the doors, kill the zombies inside, and hang out with months of food until something happens. If a significant number of people are still alive (and it will be the gun-carrying ones who are still alive on the third day) then you may have to fight for supplies, which could be really bad, so spend those days barricading your Wal-Mart fortress.

2. Say you find a building. You have several choices as to what to do. Ignoring it is easy; just move on. Looting it is worth time if it looks like it was occupied at some point. For a very quick look, check the kitchen (food), bathrooms (medicine), and the master bedroom (guns). Doing this is done on the fly, and any attempt to barricade or defend the building is minimal. Post a lookout if you can spare someone. A more deliberate search, taking two or more hours, includes every cabinet, drawer, closet, maybe extending to the basement or attic. This requires an effort to barricade and defend the place as you'll be here long enough to attract zombies. The next choice is to use it as an overnight camp. This involves an hour or more of defense work, thinking in layers, such as a second line of defense if the zombies break into one entry. Don't forget an escape route. Staying the night is not just a good night's sleep and some quiet campfire conversation; search the place thoroughly, including vents and any hiding places. The final option is to use the building as a temporary base camp, staying several days while you loot nearby buildings. The secure base camp gives you a place to stockpile what you find, sort through it, and eat what you cannot carry. You might even stash the rest of it for a possible return visit, but you're probably not going to come back. In that case, you might still want to leave the building as a secure haven, clearly placing the food or whatever else there is in open view, leaving a few notes about what nearby houses you already looted, and securing the entries in ways humans can easily enter but zombies cannot. You might even spray paint something like "safe house" on the outside.

3. It seems to me that one issue in the Zombie Apocalypse is going to be keeping track of the date. This can be important since you want to know when winter is coming. More to the point, if you leave notes for others you could say "We were here on October 3rd 2016 and went to South Podunk" so that others know if they can follow and join you. With no electronics, you're down to marking dates in a diary and even writing down enough notes that you can tell one day from another and be sure you didn't skip or double mark a day. The question is whether anyone reading your messages was accurate in keeping track of the days. Knowing you went west two days ago is one thing, but reading that someone left on a date that is inaccurate is less useful.

4. Much is written about the best weapons for the zombie war. Besides the obvious (one each: assault rifle, pistol, machete, big knife) you may find yourself without weapons due to some situation. The easiest thing to find is some sort of club, which might work if you don't have to face more than one zombie at a time. The easiest real weapon to find is a knife. While a good combat knife is preferable, any big kitchen knife is better than nothing. Absent a firearm, several strong knives with blades of a few inches or more will at least give you a fighting chance. When you get time, make a spear. You need a piece of wood maybe four or five feet long and at least an inch in diameter. Hardwood is preferable, and shovel handles can be swell. Shape it to a point with your knife. (You can "fire harden" the spear point by holding it over a flame then scraping away anything charred or burned.) That gives you something that can penetrate a skull, keep a zombie a bit farther out of reach, and use two hands to extract if it gets stuck. If you only have one knife, make some extras by sharpening stakes (a foot long) and using them first. Driven by both hands, they will penetrate a zombie skull, or you can aim for the eye sockets.
5. Consider making a pistol lanyard from parachute cord or good string. I know it makes you look like a sissy but this is the apocalypse and being able to drop an empty pistol (that stays attached to your body when you run away) in order to grab your knife has a certain advantage.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. You will find us on Twitter as ADBInc_Amarillo. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames.

We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Joke From the Past

This is Steven Petrick posting.

When I was a kid, one of the cartoon shows that was running was "Scooby Doo." As an adult, I seldom watch the various cartoon shows (I did watch the last one which had a running plot all through the series, which is why I say "seldom") since then (like the one where Scooby and the gang are all pre-teens (I have never seen a single episode). I have, however, tended to watch the various cartoon movies (and the live-action ones).

Recently I caught the one where they go to "World Wide Wrestling" and contend with "the Ghost Bear." Putting that aside, the biggest thing in it was the scene where the gang first gathers at a burger bar before heading out. Fred has his new camera and briefly tells everyone what it it.

Instant flashback.

I do not know why, but one of those things caught in my brain and readily accessible if jogged is the first time I ever saw Bugs Bunny go "Rabbit-o a' Martian-o" with the Warner Brothers character who eventually came to be known as "Marvin the Martian."

The name of Fred's camera was the same as the device needed to fire Marvin's weapon to destroy Earth, because it was obstructing his view. Bugs steals the device, leaving Marvin to expound: "Where's the kaboom? There should be an Earth-shattering kaboom?"

The reminder gave me a brief spurt of chuckles which really had nothing to do with the movie (although it was obviously intended to provoke the response in an older audience such as myself that it did).

The only other really favorable thing I would say about this particular film is that they got pretty imaginative with the Ghost Bear chasing the "meddling kids" through the caves. Beyond that, it was pretty standard fare. That is to say the "monster/ghost" du jour had access to a technology wholly out of place and that is what makes it possible to pretend to be a "monster/ghost."

Of course the Scooby gang has mostly stayed the same (which was also a joke in the film, but I will not further expose that one), but only mostly. Some of the shows have resorted to the gang encountering the "truly supernatural," which is at odds with what was their main trope of it always being "Old Man Whithers" (or come other merely mortal human trying to scare people away while he did his nefarious business). The Scooby gang started with the idea that they would always end the show by "debunking" the ghosts/aliens/monster and pull the Halloween mask aside and show us that there was nothing to be afraid of really than another human playing tricks.

Monday, August 25, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 17-23 August 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was supposed to be the week that Steve Cole started laying out A Call to Arms Star Fleet 1.2, but he came down with a cold and was out most of the time, spending two "not really well" days on the Captain's Log #49 FLAP list. The weather this week was hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week were the Federation Master Starship Book and JagdPanther #8.

Steve Cole worked on the FLAP list, updating indexes, the Wall of Honor, and reference documents.

Steven Petrick worked on future projects and things for Captain's Log #50, laying the ground work for thing rest of the year.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with 5 new entries.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on uploading PDFs, launched the Platinum Hat tournament, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2200 friends), managed our Twitter feed (114 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread some things, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

ADB, Inc.’s page on Facebook is now up and running, and we’re finding a lot of new faces who haven’t been around the BBS or Forum. We have pictures up of ADB, Inc. staff, links to many of our videos, snippets of information, and interaction with our fans. Jean Sexton is the main voice you will hear on our page on Facebook. If she doesn’t know an answer, she’ll ask one of the Steves and ferry the answer back.

All that is left is for you to "like" the page for Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. if you haven’t done so already. Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf.

Many people on our page on Facebook have not been on our BBS, so perhaps our new outpost on Facebook will become the place for those who want to keep up with current events without the intense atmosphere (and flood of information) found on the BBS. If you are very busy on a given day, checking our page on Facebook would tell you quickly if something important has been announced. The page also has its own art galleries, plus a place where you can post a review of our products. It also has discussions where you can link up with fellow gamers.

We've also added a Twitter feed which you can follow at https://twitter.com/ADBInc_Amarillo.
 Be sure to follow us for a quick look at what is going on!

We hope to see you there! For Facebook users, be sure to add us to an interest group to see all of our posts.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Steve Cole reviews summer television shows.

THE LAST SHIP: The start of this show made no sense (the ship sat in the arctic for months without ever turning on a radio to receive sports scores?) and it suffers from the same "main actors must do everything, so the bridge crew is the main away team" syndrome that plagued Star Trek. Even so, I love the three main actors and will watch it.

DOMINION: I have a major hobby reading religious history and biblical archaeology, so I was attracted to a show that began with God almighty just walking away because He was fed up with the actions of His creations. Some parts of it don't make a lot of sense but the internal politics of the secret power factions is interesting. My only questions are where is Jesus in all this? And for that matter, Satan? Maybe they're saving them for Season Two?

DEADLIEST CATCH: One of my favorite male soap operas, made more interesting this year by having women on two of the crews.

ICE ROAD TRUCKERS: I wish they'd go back to Alaska instead of watching this rivalry between two truck companies I don't care about, but at least Lisa Kelly is on it.

LONGMIRE: A detective show with a twist. Walt Longmire is a Wyoming sheriff who has to deal with rural crimes plus the politics of an adjacent Indian reservation that has corrupt cops and mysterious conspiracies. Throw in a few crazy Indians who believe in their primitive mysticism and the hot blonde from Galactia and I'm there.

QUEST: A reality competition show where everybody dressed up for Dungeons and Dragons. I've seen three episodes and I'm willing to watch more.

TAXI BROOKLYN: An implausible concept of a detective (played by an actress who is cute but too scrawny to be believable) who is so good no one can fire her and so bad a driver than she can't be given a police car (so she has to use a taxi driven by an ex-con who has lots of useful connections). Oh, and her mother is dating her boss.

UNFORGETTABLE is an intriguing cop show staring Poppy Montgomery (and I'd watch her hold a phone book, even without reading it). The writers are trying to set something up with her gambling habit, but it makes no sense as her super memory doesn't really apply to poker.

PERCEPTION is about an expert on the human brain who is himself crazy and keeps talking to hallucinations. The fun part is the young FBI chick and her ex-husband and current fiance who are trying to get married again.

MAJOR CRIMES: A wonderful ensemble cast of detectives who solve (well) major crimes. The side story of Rusty is not interesting and contributes nothing to show; we could have more fun with the cases if he just disappeared. I love Lieutenant Provenza who appeared in one of our Klingon stories as Krovenza. The coming spin-off about special operations command looks to be just as good.

LIVE ANOTHER DAY: The best season of 24 ever. Jack Bauer is cold and ruthless, which makes this very good television. The death of a major romantic character tore my heart out. The gutsy president impressed me.

ROOKIE BLUE is an interesting cop show if only because they're all Canadian cops. The writers have taken a turn that impressed me. The best cop anyone has ever seen (McNally) made a series of mistakes in training a rookie that have caused shockwaves. I'm glad that they stopped making her a superwoman.

ROYAL PAINS: A disease of the week doctor show set in the rich Hamptons of Long Island, made bearable by the non-medical plot points. It's actually fun to watch unless "dad" shows up and that actor (if one can stretch to the point of calling him an actual actor) ruins everything with his completely incompetent performances. Someone should have told that idiot to change careers during his first show 30 years ago.

LOTTERY: Humans stopped having babies six years ago. No one knows why. The theories include God, aliens, and Gaia all deciding that the humans were ruining planet Earth with overpopulation. Then one scientist manages to fertilize exactly 100 embryos and a president about to be forced out of office organizes a lottery to pick the 100 lucky mothers.
ROSELLI & ISLES: A great detective show ruined by the totally unnecessary pregnancy story line, but at least that disappeared when the fans objected. Otherwise, I would have dropped this because if I wanted to deal with kids I would have had my own. I'm already fed up with too many episodes about a deceased character played by an actor who committed suicide.
EXTANT: Astronette goes to space alone for 13 months and comes home pregnant. I find the show far less interesting than Leanna does and use the time to read a book, which makes it hard to keep track of the conspiracy theories but then I don't care anyway. If they had hired an actual actress for the lead it might have helped.

UNDER THE DOME is successful enough that it has exceeded the ability of the writers to make sense of their own story lines. They could have done so much more.

THE BRIDGE: I was sick one weekend and binge watched eight episodes and would have watched more if I had any on Tivo. The series is gritty and full of interesting and flawed characters.

COVERT AFFAIRS, PSYCHE, BURN NOTICE: I enjoy these shows but never finished last season and the new season is stacking up in my Tivo. Actually I have four seasons of Psyche.

FALLING SKIES: This could have been a good show but is so poorly written that it is painful to watch. The plot makes even less sense than the technology. How do military convoys drive around at night with their lights on without the aliens even noticing?

REDEYE: My favorite show and the only news program I actually watch so that I don't have to face reality.

LEGENDS: A vehicle for Sean Bean, but it's stretching reality to say he has a British accent because he grew up on a US base in England. I love the actor but not the background conspiracy plotline.

Friday, August 22, 2014

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 7

61. Assign Ross Perot as navigator since he doesn't know where he's going.

62. Tell the captain that the B10 CAN land on planets. Even on gas giants.

63. Challenge the captain to a game of "chicken" without mentioning that you are on a planet.

64. Part it in New Your City without "the Klub", and it should be up on blocks with the engines missing in 24 hours.

65. Forget to allocate energy for life support.

66. Open the spacecocks and let the vacuum in.

67. Tell the Romulans and Orions it can see cloaked ships.

68. Get it wet. The rivets put in by penal workers will rust.

69. Fit it with eight R-torps; the shock will take care of things.

70. Tell the captain to run it through a supernova to clean the space barnacles off the hull.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

Playing games by email or by post is an alternative to playing face-to-face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

When playing Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander using the Play-by-Email (PBEM) system you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "SitRep" (Situation Report) to the players via email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FC or SFB PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game. Moderating a game is also an excellent way to learn more about the game's rules.

Prime Directive games can be played by posting on the Forum. The GM of the game gets players, approves their characters, then sets up situations for the characters to face. It takes a bit longer because the players are not sitting around the table, but it also allows people who are spread out across the world to play.

Players of all our games are expanding the frontiers of playing long distance. Some are trying chat, some are adding webcams to that, many are trying out VOIP so as to get close to a face-to-face experience.

While there are some disadvantages to playing long distance (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing long distance, drop in on the Forum (http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2) or BBS (http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

Ever wished you could take a peek inside a shrink-wrapped box or look behind the pretty covers of a book? Then these videos are for you.

The brainchild of Mike Sparks, our YouTube videos are of three types. The first is about a specific product line and you can hear Steve Cole (yes, he is the talking hands in our videos) discuss the products that are in one of the different games. The second kind is what ADB, Inc. has released in a particular month. These are a great way to catch up quickly on the new items.

It is the third kind that let's you see what is in the box. A boxed game such as Federation & Empire is taken out of the box item by item so that you can see what's in there. From rulebook, to charts, to maps, to counters, each item is shown and discussed. It's a lot of information to pack into a short clip, but SVC and Mike manage it.

Check out our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames and be sure to bring the popcorn!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

And so the Grenade Went Down the Barrel

This is Steven Petrick posting.

In "Walking Dead" a tank was used to attack the prison. This tank was supposedly destroyed by throwing a grenade down the cannon barrel.

I thought, and said at the time, that this was extremely unlikely. That if it were possible I would have encountered numerous accounts of tanks being taken out in that manner. Further, since the tank concerned was an M-60 with a rifled, as opposed to a smooth bore, cannon, this seemed even less likely.

Turns out that there is a recorded instance of a tank being taken out by a grenade down the barrel. It happened during the "Battle of the Bulge."

Now, I will acknowledge this account, but I am also going to point out that the method in this case more or less overcame my primary resistance to this concept: getting the grenade to go all the way down the barrel despite the friction of such a move tending to work against the grenade traveling far enough to fall out of the breech. It was not, in the actual event as recorded, one man "throwing" a grenade down the barrel. It was one man holding a grenade while another swung the but of his rifle to "bat" the grenade down the barrel.

Even so, the problem with the account is a lot of things are missing.

Getting an American World War II era "pineapple" grenade past the "muzzle brake" on a Tiger, Panther, Mark IV, or even a StG-III or -III/IV is going to present a problem.

Maybe the grenade in question was a captured German stick grenade (potato-masher), which would let he first man lay it in the muzzle with the stick protruding for the second man to hit it?

The account says "tank," but the teller makes note that the average American soldier in that period called anything with tracks and a main gun a "tank." So it might have been a Hetzer that was attacked (no muzzle brake, and certainly a shorter barrel to get the grenade down).

So, I am left with the concept that a "tank" was in fact destroyed by a grenade being sent down its cannon barrel and (apparently) through the open breach into the body of vehicle.

But I do not know exactly how it happened. There is no apparently precise record of what the vehicle actually was, much less what grenade was used.

Still, the men that did the job had a heck of a lot of courage.

Monday, August 18, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 10-16 August 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we finished the Federation Master Starship Book and the Captain's Log #49 large print edition. The weather this week was hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Captain's Log #6.

Steve Cole worked mostly on the Federation Master Starship Book and Captain's Log #49 large print edition. When those were finished he came down with a cold and went to bed for a couple of days. As part of finishing the Captain's Log #49 large print edition,  he created an on-disk archive of clipart so he could quickly find art of an empire and size/proportions needed. He also found  moment to edit a three-page Gorn story into Captain's Log #50.

Steven Petrick worked on the Federation Master Starship Book and started the Captain's Log #50 battle group articles.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with five new entries. We got the 2500 Orion CR back into stock so now all ships are on hand.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike bound books, kept orders going out, and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates (including most of the individual pages for the Wall of Honor) and some graphics.

Jean worked on the Platinum Hat tournament, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2198 friends), managed our Twitter feed (113 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Federation Master Starship Book, arranged some art for the Captain's Log #49 large print edition, took care of customers, and did an awful lot of marketing.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Find New Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four war gamers in Amarillo that I knew, but there must have been more as the one store that carried Avalon Hill games (then the only wargames) would sell one or two now and then that my friends and I knew we didn't buy. Funny, it never once occurred to us to ask the store manager to give our phone numbers to the other guys. When I was in college, SPI (then the second wargame company and rapidly becoming larger and more innovative than Avalon Hill) had an opponent wanted list. I sent in my dollar to get it, and found only one person (of the 20 on the list) who was within 120 miles; the first and last person on the list were each 450 miles away (in opposite directions).

These days, the concept of contacting other gamers has had decades to mature, works much better, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For best results, you should do all of them.

If you play Federation Commander, then you can go to the Commander's Circle and enter your data (as much or as little as you are comfortable with) and perhaps find opponents near you. We are gaining new sign-ins every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out if somebody nearby has signed in. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/

Primarily for Federation Commander players, the Forum has a topic where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations. Players can let other players know they're around. How silly would you feel if you found out that the guy who you've been arguing with on the forum for years actually lives in your town. (That HAS happened.) http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2

You can to go to a local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of your favorite game(s) and "grow your own" opponents. If a person already plays the game you are demoing, he'll doubtless drop by just to swap phone numbers.

Many towns have community bulletin boards on the local cable company's "home" channel. These are variously free or cost just a couple of dollars. It's hit-and-miss, but you could get lucky. (When I commanded Company C of the 1-39 MPs, I gained a dozen new recruits in a year that came from cable TV.) You could also buy a cheap want ad in the newspaper or the free advertising newspaper (American's Want Ads or whatever yours is called) found in quickie marts. There is also Craigslist, but you should use the normal caution you would for meeting a stranger.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to http://starfleetgames.com/starlist.shtml. Enter your data in the form, and you'll get a list of local players back. (This may take a day or two as it is done by hand.) Starlist is the most effective hunt for new players because the database has some 5,000 players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than a local phone book would, and if that's enough for those criminals to operate, they would be vastly more likely to use the phone book than to request a copy of Starlist.

You can find opponents for all of our games on our BBS. Go to http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/ and you'll see "Seeking Opponents" on the main menu. You can post a notice there (and search the previous postings). Again, you can post as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.

Friends of our page on Facebook can post to see who is out there. Not a friend? Become one here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see http://www.starfleetgames.com/links.shtml for suggestions).

If there is a game convention within driving distance, it's worth a trip to see if you might find someone who is also within driving distance. If there is a game club in your home town or a store with a gaming area, go there and set up the game and wait for somebody to ask what it is. (Even better, take a friend who will play the game with you so you won't be bored.) If there is a Star Trek club in your home town, show them Federation Commander or Star Fleet Battle Force. There are people who have printed a card with the logo of one of our games and their email address and left these in the windows of their cars who got emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online (http://www.sfbonline.com/index.jsp) and play Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander online with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $5 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

We have a lot of free stuff on our website. Let me point you to some of the most popular things. Doing this in alphabetical order we start with Federation & Empire. They have play aids and countersheet graphics here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#FNE

Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the Federation Commander game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). First Missions will give you enough of the game that you can try it out. Go here to download it: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/first-missions.shtml

But that's just a start. Commander's Circle has lots of free resources such as various formats of the Master Ship Chart, Ship Cards, the current and back issues of Communique, scenarios, and playtest rules. If you register, then you can find other Federation Commander players.

Prime Directive players can find a treasure trove of play aids, including medals, insignia, maps, the timeline, and lots of other goodies to spice up a game. These can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#PD

Want to introduce a friend to the Star Fleet  Universe? Try the free download of Introduction to the Star Fleet Universe: Prime Directive and Roleplaying found here:http://www.warehouse23.com/products/introduction-to-the-star-fleet-universe-prime-directive-and-roleplaying

Star Fleet Battle Force
has new cards and play aids as well. These are located here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#SFBF

Star Fleet Battles
players have the Cadet Training Manual and Cadet Training Handbook. These were done as a way to get players into the complicated Star Fleet Battles game system. You can download them for free here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/CadetTraining.shtml Also available on the same webpage are lots of SSDs for the game.

We have downloadable art for your computer and iPhone so you can show your SFU pride. Those are here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Don't forget Hailing Frequencies, our free monthly newsletter. Covering all our games, you can read back issues here: http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/past.html Don't forget to sign up to get the link delivered straight to your email box each month. You can "opt in" here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

There are many historical documents which are available for download. Maps, deck plans, assorted graphics, and much, much more can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/historicaldownloads.shtml

Browse our master index to find all sorts of interesting information: http://www.starfleetgames.com/masterindex.shtml

As you can see, you could spend days browsing. We hope you enjoy what you find.

Friday, August 15, 2014

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 6

51. Send the Kzinti version of a swarm at it.

52. Tell the Gorns that you can't build a B10 without breaking eggs. Lots of eggs.

53. Displace it into a planet.

54. Three squadrons of Stinger-2s should do it.

55. Fifteen Hydran Cuirassiers did it just fine.

56. Impound it for exceeding the warp speed limits.

57. Tell the Seltorian Hive Ship that it's a Tholian colony.

58. Paint it red and assign it as security for the Enterprise.

59. Make it the site for the next Tailhook Party.

60. Tell the Orions if they can steal it, they can keep it.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Would the Founding Fathers Do?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the frequent refrains we hear from our elected (and unelected) leaders is that they know what our founding fathers would do in a given situation. To give them the benefit of the doubt, the are perhaps as ill-educated about what our founding fathers did as most of us. Our school systems do a remarkably poor job of actually teaching what our founding fathers were like.

Thomas Jefferson did not want to be involved in foreign wars, and was opposed to having a navy that was more than a coastal defense force for that reason. Naturally he became our first President to engage in an overseas adventure. What those of you who may know about the conflict have been taught to refer to as "The first barbary war."

But it was not a "war." Congress did not declare war, Congress passed "An act for the Protection of Commerce and seamen of the United States against the Tripolitan cruisers", authorizing the President to "…employ such of the armed vessels of the United States as may be judged requisite… for protecting effectually the commerce and seamen thereof on the Atlantic ocean, the Mediterranean and adjoining seas." The statute authorized American ships to "seize vessels belonging to the Bey of Tripoli, with the captured property distributed to those who brought the vessels into port."

Much as we are enjoined that Clinton (the Balkans), George W. Bush (Somalia), George H.W. Bush (Afghanistan and Iraq), Kennedy (Vietnam), and Truman (Korea) all failed to get a "declaration of war" before committing U.S. forces to combat an aggressor, Thomas Jefferson only got Congress's approval, not a declaration. Just as the individuals above did.

There is also Spanish Florida, which saw the U.S. government send agents (U.S. Marines actually) to land on the coast of Florida in clandestine operations to stir up the population against Spanish rule. Notably under the presidency of James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution."

The truth about our founding fathers is that, more so than many of our current leaders, they were realists, and dealt with the world as they found it, not as they imagined it.

Yes, Jefferson thought the moat (Atlantic Ocean) and a some gunboats would be enough to protect us from invasion (and that did not keep the British from burning Washington in the War of 1812) and was opposed to a strong navy. He did,  however, recognize that paying "danegeld" was not stopping the Danes (or in his case, Algerians). Madison was perfectly willing to use U.S. troops to destabilize a the government of a colony so that the United States could annex it.

So when someone tells you they know what the Founding Fathers would have done, you might ask them if they have actually studied what those gentlemen actually did.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on surprising and little known bits of military history.

1. Do you remember the movie Zulu? In it was Colour Sergeant Bourne, who was a stalwart supporter of the two young officers. Bourne was given an officer's commission for his heroism that day, and died a lieutenant colonel at the age of 91 on the day after Germany surrendered in 1945.

2. On 15 May, 1939, Dupont introduced nylon; within a year Japanese sales of silk to the US fell 30 percent. While this did not cause WWII, it was one of many things that aggravated Japanese attitudes toward the US.

3. During 1943, German intelligence overheard a string of reports from Russian spies in Switzerland telling Moscow every detail of German plans. This was the Red Choir or Lucy spy ring, and their messages to Moscow said the reports came from disgruntled German officers in Berlin. The German Abwehr frantically tried to find these spies and never did. They went so far as to not tell Adolf Hitler about the leak because it would upset him and they could not find the spies anyway. (He was likely to start executing "incompetent" Abwehr officers.) It turns out that much (and maybe even all) of the Lucy reports came from British codebreakers who didn't want to tell Stalin about the broken codes, so they had British spies in Switzerland pretend to be the German underground and feed the reports to the Red Choir.

4. After the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese launched a campaign in China to kill anyone who had helped the crews escape and to terrorize the population out of any thought of helping create bases from which bombers could hit Japan. Over 250,000 people were killed. I guess if you cannot exact revenge on the people who did it, you take revenge on whoever happens to be handy.

5. Sepp (Joseph) Dietrick was Hitler's bodyguard and chauffeur during the 1920s, and was rewarded with high commands of SS units in World War II. By late 1944 he was a four-star SS general commanding the 6th SS Panzer Army, the largest and most important SS combat formation. Sepp, however, was not a professional officer and (frankly) had no real clue how to be a four-star general, but no one was allowed to speak the truth to Hitler about good old Sepp. Being an honest man who loved his country and Fuhrer, he could not allow his own incompetence to cause lost battles. Sepp surrounded himself with SS staff officers who had professional military training from the Army, and let them run his command for him, providing only policy guidance in accordance with Hitler's orders. Sepp contented himself with morale-boosting visits to front-line units, which made him one of the most popular Nazi generals. His troops adored him, perhaps not least because he knew how to hire good staff officers and get out of their way.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the  Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault websites. So far on Warehouse 23, we have released a lot of stuff for Federation Commander, including the Revision Six Reference Rulebook, the 72 ships from Federation Commander Briefing #2 (divided into six packs of 12 ships and a separate rules pack), and more than a dozen Ship Card Packs. Our ebook PDFs are in color and high resolution. PDFs of most books are searchable (older Captain’s Logs are not).

The way Warehouse 23 works, once you buy a product, you can download it again for no cost if you lose it or if we upload a revised version of that edition. Thus, the people who bought Reference Rulebook Revision 5 were able to obtain Reference Rulebook Revision 6 for free (and to download it again when we discovered we had accidentally left out rule 4S).

Our Prime Directive PD20 Modern books are sold as ebooks exclusively through DriveThru RPG. We have started offering general RPG books there as well as some of the general gaming materials that Steve Cole has written. We are also listing Federation Commander, Federation & Empire, and Star Fleet Battles products on Wargame Vault.

We must note that these products are copyrighted and are not to be uploaded or passed around to your friends. Doing so is piracy, a criminal act, and may result in us deciding not to offer any more PDF products. We have already uploaded many Starmada, Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire, and Prime Directive products. We have created a new page that allows easy access to our PDFS for sale through the various venders. From here you can see what we currently have posted and have links to those products.

So check them out! Many people like the fact they can search our rulebooks for a keyword and find everything that pertains to that issue. Others like the fact they can carry around multiple books on one device. Some Ship Cards are available exclusively as PDFs. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Monday, August 11, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 3-9 August 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This should have been an easy week for the design team, doing the post-production list for Captain's Log #49, but it wasn't. We also had to finish Hailing Frequencies for August, Communique #104, the Captain's Log #49 Supplemental File (all done), the Federation Master Starship Book (which won't be finished until Monday even working all weekend), and the Captain's Log #49 large print edition (which won't be done until next week). The weather this week was cool in the morning but hot in the afternoon. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. Our friends Terri and Sam Prey of Final Sword Productions dropped by to discuss the game industry, and Wolf had his first birthday party.

Steve Cole worked on Hailing Frequencies, Communique #104, Captain's Log #49 Supplemental File, and the art for the Federation Master Starship Book (producing over 100 entirely new images never seen before). He also did an hour's work on Captain's Log #50, setting up the files and doing two pages. He also worked on the Captain's Log #49 FLAP (Finish like a Pro) list (table of contents, input guide, schedule, recent releases, SFBF, four medal pages, Gazetteer, F&E Q&A). 

Steven Petrick worked on inserting art into the Federation Master Starship Book and making Jean's fixes to it.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with eight new entries.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, and with Simone's help got Captain's Log #49, Captain's Log #49 Supplemental File, Federation Master Starship Book, and the two Federation Commander playtest packs added to the cart.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates (adding the Captain's Log #49 material).

Jean worked on Hailing Frequencies, Communique #104, and the Captain's Log #49 Supplemental File. She also managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2189 friends), managed our Twitter feed (109 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Federation Master Starship Book, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Star Fleet Universe Downloadable Art

Simone Pike writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download backgrounds and covers for Facebook with Star Fleet Universe art.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/backgrounds.shtml.

Big monitors, small monitors, we have something for nearly everyone. 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1680 x 1050, even 2560 x1600. If you need a different size, we'll see what we can do to fill that desire. We even have backgrounds for the iOS7 iPhone.

If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into downloadable art, please feel free to contact us at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and we'll work your request in.

Saturday, August 09, 2014


Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. Hailing Frequencies has the latest company information and covers all of our games. You'll find news on the latest releases both in print and ebook, information on the company, and even serialized fiction. Hailing Frequencies also has links to the latest Star Fleet Alerts, which are press releases about new products and when they will be available for order. From Hailing Frequencies, you can link to Federation Commander specific news in the latest Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for Federation Commander players, including a new ship, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Friday, August 08, 2014

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 5

41. Assign it to carry oil exports from Planet Alyeska and provide the captain with plenty of booze.

42. Assign "Boom-Boom" Kilgore to the crew.

43. Tell the ESS there is a Federation spy on board

44. Tell environmentalists it uses spotted owls for fuel.

45. Tell environmentalists that its movement kills dolphins.

46. Cancel the warranty.

47. Drop the Black Hole coverage from its insurance to save money.

48. Park a white Bronco in the shuttlebay; the reporters will rip the ship to bits trying to get at it.

49. Paint "this end forward" on both ends.

50. Remind the crew it was built by the lowest bidder.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Turtle

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Tuesday night I was on my way home, driving through the middle of Canyon, Texas, on the main drag, which I do practically every time I go home.

What was different this night was just after I passed the busiest intersection in town I caught sight of a turtle.

The road at this point is two lanes south bound (of which I was in one), two lanes north bound, separated by a turning lane, so five total lanes of traffic. About two thirds of the way across the turning lane, heading west, was a turtle.

Where he came from, where he was going, how he had managed to get where he was (apparently having survived crossing the two north bound lanes to get there) I will obviously never know.

The simple thing to do was to say "not my problem" and continue on my way, but of course I could not do that. The first chance I got I reversed direction and pulled into the parking lot of the Wendy's that was close to where I had seen the turtle. The parking lot was crowded, so I had to park much further from the turtle than I liked, because I cannot run anymore on my legs. I still strode back to the turtle's general location as quickly as I could. Arriving, I could see the turtle had "hunkered down." He was not making any more forward progress (when I first saw him he was in motion), and as I was waiting for a break in traffic a large red SUV passed over him, the wheels on the vehicle's passenger side appearing to miss him by less than a foot. A break in the traffic (allowing for my slow means of locomotion, my younger self would have gotten there much sooner) finally appeared and I reached the turtle and picked him up.

Now what?

This was not a matter of helping him across the street. We are in the middle of town, almost literally. I cannot take him home, but I am now somewhat responsible for him. A quick examination showed some damage to him along the lower left side (oozing blood, but not pumping it out), but his shell otherwise appeared intact (but he would be darned before he came out of his shell while I was holding him, he had probably already had quite enough excitement, thank you very much). There was a kind of "thrift shop" nearby, and I went there and asked for a box to put him in. Since I was going to be transporting him in my car, I did not want him to ooze blood on my seat or floor, and there was always a chance that fear would finally cause him to "void" which again was something I did not want to deal with in my car.

Having secured a box, I put the turtle in it, and took him to my car. From there, I drove down to Southeast Park, parking as far from "civilization" in the park as I could, I walked with the box down to the edge of a marshy area. Turtles tend to be herbivorous, and there was plenty of flora, and plenty of nearby water where I set him down. As he had come out of his shell briefly during the drive to the park, exploring the box looking for an escape I am sure, I knew he was still alive and active. He had retreated back into his shell when I picked the box up to move him, and having now taken him out of the box and set him down I backed up a few paces and waited.

After a minute or two he extended his head as far as he could and raised it to look around. Then he extended his legs and moved off deeper into the brush. I then realized one mistake I had made. I had set him down facing west, his original direction of travel, and he moved off in that direction. If there was something he was trying to get to in that direction, then he was again on his way and would again be attempting to cross the main road in Canyon in a day or two.

I do not know, however, what his fate will be. I only know I did the best I could for him under the circumstances. I do not know if I did in fact save his life and he will live well from that point, or if I saved him from a relatively quick death (being run over) only to condemn him to  a lingering death from his injury becoming infected. I can only hope that he will have as full a life as he can manage in the park, as I will doubtless never see him again.

When I got home, I did immediately wash my hands as there is always a risk of picking something up from an animal in such circumstances.

I will no doubt soon forget the incident, as it is not the only time in my life I have intervened in the life of some animal or other in trouble. Sometimes all I could do is administer a coup de grace when the animal's injuries were obviously unsurvivable and spare it a painful lingering death. I soon forget these incidents, until attempting another such act of kindness like this one causes me to reflect on the others.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

How Not to Get into the Game Business

Steve Cole writes:

I constantly see things on industry mailing lists and in my Email where people want advice on entering the game business. The best advice I have is my free book which you can find at www.StarFleetGames.com/book as a nice multi-chapter PDF.

In one recent case, an individual wrote to say: "I just lost my job and have decided to be a game designer for a living. I need a stable income of $4,000 a month. How long would it take me to get there? Three months? Six?"

I laughed and cried at the same time. For one thing, I don't make $4,000 a month now and I've been in the industry over 30 years. (A few years I have made that much, barely, but not in the current market.) The sad fact is that except for the lucky three or four, game designers won't ever make that much. Worse, you probably cannot make a living as an independent game designer at all, since game publishing companies were (99% of the time) created to publish the owner's games because no other company would publish them.

In another case from some time ago (I'm going to blur some facts here so that nobody can tell who I'm talking about), a young game enthusiast decided to quit his day job and focus his full time efforts on game design and publishing. His wife said that she would allow this only if he "brought home" a paycheck of a defined amount each month. He had some money from an inheritance which was separate property and his wife allowed that he could use this. Well, he went through the nest egg, borrowed money from savings without telling his wife, maxed out the credit card he got for the business, and then got two more cards (those offers in the mail) without telling his wife and maxed them out. All the time (his company lasted 18 months and did a dozen products) he was "bringing home" the required paycheck. His company was making a profit beyond expenses, but not enough to cover the paycheck, but the paycheck continued because (a) his wife insisted and (b) he was sure he would start making more sales any time. One of the credit cards was a $5,000 cash advance spent on advertising (which produced few if any new sales). Every month, he wrote that paycheck but came up short elsewhere. He had established credit with the printers and with the companies that sold him advertising pages so he ended up deeply in debt to the printer and to advertising publishers. Worse, his first product (which sold well enough) ran out of print, but it was going to cost $20K to reprint it and the dwindling rate of sales (nowhere near as good as it had been 18 months earlier) would not support the debt load, but he "had" to reprint it to avoid looking like a company on the way out. Finally, with no more places to borrow money and creditors threatening legal action, he took the case to his wife for a home equity loan. She, of course, had no clue that his company was $40K in debt (for which he was personally liable) or that most of the family savings account was gone. It's a wonder she didn't kill him or leave him, but she did force him out of the game business immediately. He sold out for what he could get and applied that money to the debts. Moral of the story, if you are married, make your wife a part of every business decision and do not keep secrets from her about family money.

In another case (actually, there are four or five of these I have seen, all about the same), an enthusiastic game designer who knew nothing about the industry but was sure his game was the next big thing got a home equity loan, printed thousands of copies of his game, and THEN (and only then) asked other game companies how to contact stores and wholesalers to sell his game. He had no clue what size the market was (few games sell over a couple of thousand copies) or who the wholesalers were or what it would take to get them to buy (some now demand that you pay them $500 for advertising before they will carry your game) or even what the discount structure was (which meant that his cost per game was fairly close to the 40% of the retail price he had printed on the games). Moral of the story, learn as much as you can about the industry before you spend a dime getting into it. GO READ MY BOOK FIRST.

I see lots of gamers who think that running a retail store, and online discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on small business America.

1. Almost every Friday, Steven Petrick and I eat at Blue Front, a nearby restaurant which has a BBQ special that day. (The girls eat somewhere else on Friday.) I make it a point to collect coins from change all week so I can pay the bill ($8.71) in coins because Billy (the owner) always says she is short of coins. She appreciates the small favor. (It's relatively meaningless; she goes to the bank regularly and could get all the coins she wants, but perhaps I delay a bank trip by a day.)

2. Across the road from the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is the Candy Kitchen Trading Post. (Technically, the area including the trading post and WSWS is the "town" of Candy Kitchen, but the town has no mayor or services.) Several hundred people live in a few square miles of mountain meadows, mostly on a network of unpaved roads. These are people who want to live "off the grid" in this remote "back of the moon" location. Many of them grow vegetables or raise small animals and more than a few are retired people, or survivalists waiting for some apocalypse or other. Frank Blackmoon started the trading a few years ago because the nearest hardware store is over 50 miles away and people who live in cabins in such a remote area are always doing repairs and need nails, lumber, tools, etc. Frank remarked that when it's cold people cut up trees for firewood, and if your chainsaw chain breaks, you face either a long drive (not always possible when it snows) or a cold night. He carries a few groceries but also has a tiny restaurant (burgers, pizza, breakfast) which became the "local place where everybody knows everybody's name." My hat's off for Frank Blackmoon, who exemplifies the best of Small Business America. He saw a need and he started a business to fill that need. He also opened a small bed and breakfast about 50 yards up the hill. There are always people coming into the area for a night or two to see the wolves, visit relatives, or look for home sites for sale.

3. Every now and then you need to look at everything you do and find a better, faster, cheaper way to do it, or at least one that moves the job to a less-valuable team member. But the first step of that process is to ask yourself: "Do we really need to be doing this at all?"

4. Sometimes you need to take a moment to admire your own work. Somehow, reading something you wrote or edited just to enjoy your own work will find a mistake that proofreading it six times did not find. I think it's because your mind is relaxed and not looking for problems.

Monday, August 04, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 27 July - 2 August 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that we finished Captain's Log #49 and started printing. The weather this week was cooler and rainer than the norm. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, and Jean Sexton focused almost totally on finishing Captain's Log #49.

The 2500 project saw the second group of three ships put onto the shopping cart. 

At the end of the week, Steven Petrick had started reconstitution (doing things not done while Captain's Log #49 was finished, cleaning up Captain's Log files and resetting them for Captain's Log #50). 

Steve Cole spent Saturday doing the Captain's Log #49 Supplemental File and some work on Hailing Frequencies and Communique.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics for Captain's Log #49.

Jean worked on Captain's Log #49, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,183 friends), managed our Twitter feed (108 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, bought a new car, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Play Online

Many people do not know that you can play either Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander online in real time against live opponents.

Ten years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of Star Fleet Battles with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then. It since expanded to include Federation Commander!

Now you can play with real live human (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.

For the modest subscription fee of less than $6 a month per game system, you have access to most of the ships in the Star Fleet Battles/Federation Commander game systems as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in online tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

We continue to develop Federation & Empire for an online environment and have playtesters working out the kinks. We'll let you know as soon as it is ready to release.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Finishing Captain's Log #49

Steve Cole writes:
It was last Wednesday evening, and Chuck Strong (head of the F&E Department) called to make sure I had everything I needed from him to finish Captain's Log #49. He remarked that it was the first time he had made his final check-in call that I was in good spirits. Usually, he said (and correctly) that I was pretty strung out, frantic, and more than a little combat-stressed at that point, but that instead I was positively buoyant, even bubbly.

There was a reason for that: we had finished Captain's Log #49 about 10 minutes earlier, and it was (in so far as how many problems there were) the best work experience on an issue of Captain's Log we had ever experienced. Every page of Captain's Log #49 was in a stack on the table, lacking only six small graphics I would create the next morning. A few pages had the page number corrected in ballpoint pen, and we had not yet checked the table of contents and the art credits list, but it was done. We still had the final "turn through the book, fix the alibis, fix anything wrong, and tweak things to make them better" which was scheduled to take all day Thursday.

The Supplemental File will tell the story of each feature of the issue and how it came to be, so I won't repeat that here. What I will mention is that we had a plan and it worked, producing the most stress-free "final three weeks of Captain's Log" we had ever experienced. Things did not go perfectly; most of the department heads got their stuff in a week later than they should have, but we were able to work past those issues without any strain because we knew what they would send and how easily it would fit in.

The stress over Captain's Log is not just getting all of the stuff done, but figuring out the page count. It is impossible to predict the page count of many articles and features and departments, leaving us wondering if we have enough pages or too many for the whole issue. It's a dynamic balance, but one we have seen before and work around. We have "the salami sections" in which we just slice off as many pages out of the "on file and ready" material as it takes to fit the space. If one article comes in a page long or a page short, we just adjust the number of pages in the scenario sections or in Ask Admiral Vanaxilth. Battle groups might be anywhere from 10 to 20 pages, and that one creates tension (which is why we set a deadline for it). Victory articles (there isn't one in this issue) also come in whatever size they are and cannot be stretched or shrunk, and until those pages are received, edited, and printed out for proofreading, we have no idea how big that article is.

In the case of the department heads, it just wasn't that big a crisis if they were late. Paul Franz (SFBOL, FCOL, Warlord) always takes 1.5 pages, Frank Brooks (PBEM) takes a page, Howard Bampton (GC) always takes a page (and he got that page to us very early this time), so we don't care if they are later or earlier in the process. Daniel Kast does the Starmada section and was late because the box of source material he needed sat on a shelf for two weeks before somebody asked when I wanted it shipped, but I knew he would take one or two rules pages and four ship pages, and I could adjust Vanaxilth by one page either way (plenty of his article on file). For that matter, Andy Vancil (who does Vanaxilth) was late because his computer died, but because of the way his stuff is done (salami) it didn't really matter.

The department heads do small critical parts of the book, but the lion's share of the work is done by Steven Petrick. He does the SSDs, the SFB scenarios, Battle groups (for Federation Commander and Star Fleet Battles), tactical papers, the monster article, the update section, and the ship descriptions. All of that adds up to 72 pages -- literally half of the book! More to the point, it's almost all fairly big chunks which not only run up the page count, but their size cannot be easily predicted. Reliably, Steve does his stuff ahead of time, and when we start "the three week tour" that brings a Captain's Log to print, most of his work is already done and ready to hand over to me for layout.
Jean Sexton writes a page here and there (input guide, commo officer, Ranger update, battle group update, the occasional tactical paper, and this time a scenario) but most of her work is proofreading. She has to sit down and carefully read the entire book (some of it twice). The key word is "carefully" as she has to stop and mark changes (and read slowly enough that she sees every mistake). Once she reads a page and marks it up, Steven Petrick reads it and adds his marks. Then Jean checks his marks (modifying a few) and hands the pages to me. I make the fixes, but then Jean has to go check the changes to make sure I did them all, did them right, and didn't create any new ones when I fiddled with something I happened to see. Any of that, she marks and sends back to me for a second round of changes, which she also has to check (sometimes creating at third round of changes and in one case a fourth round). Sometimes Jean and I have competing priorities over what she should do first: read a page she has never read or check changes in a page I just fixed. By and large, I prefer the latter since it puts green squares on the workbook and reduces the number of pieces of paper on her desk. She, on the other hand, prefers to read whatever looks fun and interesting (can't blame her there) no matter how long it is. We sort of compromised in the theory that once a day I take over her priorities for an hour (or less) and make her do all of the "easy points on the board" stuff.

Thursday went smoothly. I did the last graphics (I hate doing scenario graphics but shucks it only took an hour to do all six), Steven Petrick brought me a list of pages I had to reprint (because they had ball point pen marks on them), and Jean was valiantly resisting the urge to read all 144 pages again in the desperate hope of finding five or six more typos. What Jean did do was compare the facing pages and move some art around. (She finally discovered that I just put every piece of art on the bottom corner of the final page of the article and decided that it would be better if some of them moved to other corners.) In two cases, she had me swap pages because one two-page spread had tons of art and the next one had no art at all. That took only an extra hour and make a better, prettier, book for the customers. This step went so well that she went back through again, having me create tiny little graphics to go into tiny little holes.

I think one of the coolest parts of the issue was one particular piece of art. Jean had written a starship combat scenario about two young lovers, and I asked an artist to create a picture of them in some tender romantic moment. The art proved to be incredibly romantic and made us all sigh.

Friday, August 01, 2014

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 4

31. Name Conan O'Brien as the Public Affairs Officer

32. Beam Madonna on board.

33. Tell the feminists that there are no female officers.

34. Get really lucky with the photons.

35. Tell it battleships can ignore minefields.

36. Send it alone to the Kzinti capital. It can handle it!

37. Tell the Conservatives that Hillary is the captain.

38. Let an ensign conduct unsupervised science experiments.

39. Put two B10s next to each other, and the gravitational stress will tear them both apart.

40. Make it the next site for Woodstock.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16